January 16, 2019
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union could be willing to rework its ideas for post-Brexit trade relations with Britain if London asks for something different, the EU executive indicated on Wednesday after the British parliament rejected an existing deal.
The European Commission’s chief spokesman told reporters the withdrawal agreement itself, which sets out terms for British departure, would not be renegotiated. He implied the other key part of the deal — a political declaration on expectations for post-Brexit trade terms — could be reworked.
Asked about comments by EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier that Britain could have different trade terms if it changed its “red lines”, spokesman Margaritis Schinas said: “We are always ready to meet and to talk but … the withdrawal agreement — and, I repeat, the withdrawal agreement — agreed by the 27 and the United Kingdom, is not open for renegotiation.”
EU officials have said that were Britain to, say, drop its refusal to remain permanently in a customs union with the EU, then the bloc would be willing to negotiate that and that this could also ease difficulties around the Northern Ireland border which generated some of the British parliament’s resistance.
(Reporting by Alastair Macdonald and Clare Roth)